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About this blog

Ohio State graduate Peter Braun's 2014 internship at Mount Juliet Golf Club, Co.Kilkenny, Ireland

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TPC Sawgrass Players Championship Volunteer

Being called the 5th major tournament is one thing, but to play and look like one is much harder. TPC Sawgrass Stadium course was very well conditioned making for a fantastic finish. from eventual winner Ricky Fowler. The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is only 5 years old, but is so well run that Superintendents come from all over the world to be part of the amazing agronomy team for the tournament.      For the tournament over 70 volunteers came to help from places as close as Georgia and South Carolina to places further away such as the UK and Ireland, Argentina, Canada, and even South Africa. That is a testament to the quality of the program put on by TPC Sawgrass Agronomy. Everything was very well organized. The volunteers stayed at a nearby college and had shuttles running back and forth.   https://vimeo.com/126804546   The days started and finished in darkness, but no one seemed to care. Everyone arrived to the volunteer tent by 4:30AM to have a team meeting at 4:45AM. By 5:00AM everyone was out the door and one their way to making the course look its best. The crew was split into four groups: Front 9, Back 9, Practice Facility, and Landscape. I was on the Back 9 team raking bunkers in the morning and rotary mowing green surrounds at night. PM jobs were started based upon play so any where from 5PM to 6PM.       Being a PGA tournament and one of the best agronomically on tour everything is done with attention to detail. Being on bunkers I did not know how much went in to raking a perfect bunker. Using a double leaf rake the bunker has to have no blemishes, so no clumps, ripples, or curved lines. To walk a straight line is much harder than you would think but we all picked it up pretty fast. If the angle of the rake is off or the line curves then the bunker needs to be done over so we watched for any problems and fixed them before the bunker was finished.          A quick over view of went on each day for maintenance. Greens were double cut in the morning and back track mowed at night. Two pairs of mowers went out on each 9 so the greens could be cut in time. Greens were then rolled, sometimes double rolled or just a single roll. A few afternoons two rollers went out before greens mowers as well as after. Fairways were cut morning and night by four guys on each 9. Approaches were single mowed in both the morning and night by two guys on each 9. Tees were cut once in the morning by two guys on each 9. Everything but greens were burnt in. So 18 people were used to cut and roll the course in each day. The practice facility did the same but with less people. On bunkers and rotary mow usually there were 8-10 guys working. Various other jobs were done like watering, cup cutting, moisture meter, and stimp meter.        From Monday to Sunday the middle of the day was free to do what every you wanted. Some guys went back to sleep, while others stayed and watched golf. Just before dinner there were some talks from leaders in the industry. One talk was on calibration, one on turf apps, and another on chemicals/diseases. While there was some pressure to get everything perfect we did have time for fun. This made the event much more enjoyable. Check out this dance video put together by Turf Republic and fellow crew member Cole.     Turf Republic was brought in to capture the work that goes into the tournament on film. Bill Brown and Sam Bauer did a fantastic job. The videos in this blog were created by them. I thank them for doing such a wonderful job to capture the best Players Championship ever. Check out Turf Republic website for more videos or their youtube page. Coverage of the tournament and for a great turf blog (one of my favorites) go to TPC Sawgrass Agronomy's blog.      https://vimeo.com/127392281   Ian Poulter (yellow) Thanks the Agronomy Team   2 Guys from South Africa   The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is world renown. By working my third tournament of the year I had a little clue of what to expect but the agronomy team surpassed my expectations. I really enjoyed meeting new friend from all over the world, talking turf with everyone, and just having fun. Even though I was a volunteer I did work so some may say it was not really a holiday, but for turf people this is the pinnacle of maintenance. For a comparison I think for volunteering at TPC Sawgrass like the week at a county fair for farm people. Hours are long if not longer than normal, but it is so fun to do that people keep coming back. I was really surprised to see Sean Charles, one of my classmates from SUNY Cobleskill, volunteering. That was a nice surprise.        Another really fun part to volunteering is playing the famous 17th hole on Monday morning. I put two balls in the water, but was glad to see some guys actually hit the green and get very close to the Sunday pin.      I want to thank all of the TPC Sawgrass agronomy team for putting on a great performance to bring the best conditioned golf course to the best players in the world. Without course Superintendent Clay Breazeale or Agronomy Director Tom Vlach having a vision for the best volunteer program five years ago this could not be possible. All the staff at TPC was kind and welcoming. I had only the best interactions and everyone was professional. This was a great finish to a year long global journey in turf. I could not have asked for a better finish. From the volunteer program to the playoff on Sunday I was in turf heaven.        This will conclude my blog for TurfNet. Later this week I head to Chaska, Minnesota to work at Hazeltine National Golf Club. I appreciate everything that TurfNet and Jon Kiger did for me to help get me to where I am today as well as Mike O'Keeffe and The Ohio Program. I encourage everyone to come back and follow two new student bloggers this summer on TurfNet.           

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Hobbiton: Magic in The Shire

New Zealand is home to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy movies. Peter Jackson sought out the best place for the movies and decided on New Zealand. He really enjoyed the Alexander sheep farm where he had a vision for The Shire, home of the hobbits, to be built and filmed. What a place it is! The tour took me around the Shire explaining parts of the filming, locating, and tour process. Below is some of the history and information I was told.      Located in Matamata, Hobbiton as it is now referred to, the Shire was built. For the Lord of the Rings (LOTR)  and The Hobbit trilogy movies the Shire has a small role and is used little. Since LOTR was filmed first the set was made up mostly of cheap material. As I was told on the tour today, after filming the scenes the crew started to take it down. However the rain came forcing them out. They would try to be back during the dry season, many months later. During that time the family was having some questions about seeing the hobbit holes. So they decided to try to get the contract with the filming company to allow for some tours. This worked, but the holes were only temporary.      With the success of LOTR, Peter Jackson decided to make the Hobbit into three parts. With this new filming the Alexander family had some stipulations, the set must be remade to be permeant. Jackson agreed and Hobbiton is 100% true to the films.       The set is located within the sheep farm and the Alexander family does not want anything changed so the drive in on the tour bus is through roads with sheep wandering around. Even the gates are still just metal and chains. Not even an automatic gate at the entrance. The vegetable patches are kept up by gardeners and the place is fully irrigated. This would be a cool place to work.      As you will see in the pictures a problem with the hobbit holes being so small is that people are much taller than them. To keep the image of small, but normal proportion, actors of heights 5'2" or smaller were cast. Only Frodo, Elijah Woods, was taller at 5'4". Perspective was a huge part of the movies to make someone like Gandalf look much taller than the hobbits. We got to see a little of that today.        The hobbit holes are really cool, but most have not insides and the ones that do have only a few feet inside. Still cool to walk into a hobbit hole. The same goes for the windows and the chimneys. There were a lot of people at Hobbiton today, but it was still a magical place.         A really interesting fact I learned today is that the tree above Bilbo Baggins house is fake. In the LOTR films a tree was brought in piece by piece and had all of the leaves removed. Then 200,000 fake oak leaves were brought in and tied on to make the tree look real. At the completion of LOTR the tree was removed and destroyed. So for the Hobbit a new tree was erected. This one completely fake, but very sturdy. As the Hobbit takes place some 60 years before LOTR the tree was made smaller and more juvenile looking. Again 250,000 leaves were brought into make the tree look real. This time the Peter Jackson got sick just before shooting so it was postponed eight months. When they got back with two weeks till filming it was noticed that the leaves had faded, so workers had to paint each leaf individually to get the proper look. The things done to get a perfect piece of art.            The final stop was the Green Dragon Inn. The local pub for the Hobbits and our final event. In one scene in LOTR Frodo see the Shire being burnt down. The Green Dragon Inn actually was burnt down. So for the Hobbit movies an new one was created with it being a fully functional pub. Here everyone on the tour gets a free drink of their choice. I got ginger beer, kinda like a root beer or birch beer, but really good. I thought it was amazing. Another cool fact is that the Green Dragon Inn "sells" the most beer out of any place in New Zealand.            I just loved this place. Watching the movies and then starting the books made me want to see what this place looked like. When I first got to the Shire I thought, "this is a place I could actually see people living." I half expected to see someone come out of a hole. Maybe in the future they should carve out  few more holes that are complete for living and allow nightly stays in a hobbit hole. That would be cool.       This was a great way to end the trip to Auckland. Just a day and morning till I get on a plane bound for the States. For the day I drove 343.3km (213.3 miles) making my full trip 3273km (2033.7 miles). What a trip this was. Hopefully I get to go it again. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Ruakuri Cave, Another Kiwi House

The second part of the trilogy package was at Waitomo. Here there are caves and many of them. In these caves and in the area are glowworms. Worms that give off a glow in the dark kinda like a firefly, but with no movement. Neat to see and can be found in the wild on sides of rocks and near rivers. You can save a few dollars and go looking for them.      At the Waitomo Glowworm cave I got to see what the cave looked like as I walked around it with the guided tour. I was fortunate to have a host who is a descendant of the original Maori finder, Tane Tinorau. I have been in a cave before at Howes Cavern in Cobleskill, NY so the formations were not new to me. The glowworms were. This cave has more than just the walking tour with a boat ride finish. At certain times of the year you can hear music in the cathedral room. Famous singers such as Glen Campbell have sang down there and the local children do Christmas songs every year. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in the cave.         The next stop was the Ruakuri cave just down from the Waitomo cave. Operated by the Black Water Rafting Company this is another cave walk with glowworms, but in this one I could take pictures. Also in the cave is the ability to do black water rafting, cave climbing and much more. More on the glowworms now. Glowworms are worms that are attached to the rock glowing from their waste material. The worms hang with sticky threads hanging down to catch any insects to eat. Then when ready undergo a metamorphosis to become a fly. These do not eat and cannot eat as they have not mouths. At this point in time their objective is reproduction. Within three days the fly will die from starvation. Hopefully her eggs, laid in clusters of 20 or 30, will survive. Why clusters of 20 or 30? The first to hatch eat the other so that provides some food to get them started.    Spiral entrance to the cave   A rock in middle at bottom of entrance that has had water pouring on it for 10 years. Showing the effect of water on rock over time.      Curtains   Glowworms. Hard to get good picture.   Glowworm threads                 After I decided to go to another animal preserve and Kiwi House. This was nice and I got to see the animals up close. A main attraction for the preserve is the bird dome where you get to walk amongst the native birds and they are protected from predators. I saw another Kiwi, a few Tuatara, some Kea and Kaka. Most of the animals here are endangered or becoming endangered. A nice place to see some animals that are not in America and not your typical zoo animals.     Tuatara               Dome over the birds

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

The Redwoods and Te Puia & Te Pō

Rotorua and the area is named the Bay of Plenty as it has many resources such as timber, water, and geothermal heat. Due to Earth's crust being much closer to molten magma at only 6km down and having water at 4km down lots of steam builds up. This creates pressure that needs to be released so a geyser was formed. This has brought up lots of sulphur and the area has a distinct smell like rotten eggs where the steam is released.    The Redwood forest has a few hikes ranging from a half hour to a full day as well as mountain biking and horse trails. I have only seen a few Redwood species and saw Giant Redwoods in Ireland and these ones were just as spectacular. I love how the trees are so tall, but there is very little undergrowth. One reason they can grow so tall, no competition. I did two hikes the short one and a Quarry track. A nice view of an old Quarry.                  The highlight of the day was the Te Puia geothermal valley and the Te P? indigenous M?ori experience. Te Puia has a three geysers and many hot water and mud pools. One thing I would have done was get to the site earlier. Since I had booked this as part of a package deal I thought the guided tour would take me all over the park. It did not, but I did get to see the main attractions and hear about the culture and area from a real M?ori. The pools can be 30°C to 100°C. So swimmable to boiling hot. Very cool to see the geysers going off during the day and at night after the cultural experience.          Hot Mud Pool               Wood carver in the 3 year carving school   Te P? is a M?ori experience where we got a full on tribal greeting as would happen back in the day. Then a great show with music, dance, weapons, and the Hakka. The Hakka has become world known from the NZ All Blacks rugby team and I'll post a video below. Great to see this first hand and that the M?ori allow us a little look into their lives. After the show we got a fantastic meal that was prepared in an underground oven using the thermal heat to cook the food. It was tasty. As I stated before after we went back to the geyser and saw it erupt under the night sky. Lots of cloudy steam though. A fantastic experience. I did not do that much travel so I won't post the distances. As part of the Middle Earth Trilogy package I am going to the Waitomo glow worm caves tomorrow.    Dinner coming from the ground       Hakka dancing     Night time geyser blowing

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very popular 19km day walk in New Zealand as the scenery is amazing and many scenes and locations in Lord of the Rings were filmed here. However this is not the easiest and can be dangerous. As I found out today the crossing can be extremely windy at higher elevations making it cold as well. This hike can be done from either end to the other, but transport is needed in between. I was lucky to stay at a lodge with a shuttle so I got first class service to and from the hike. The hike can take between 7-9 hours for the average person, but somehow I did it in 5:45.        The morning part was very cloudy and misty. I could not even see much of the surrounding mountains and as I was crossing from Soda Springs to the South Crater and the Red Crater I could not see much. It felt very desolate and seemed like something the moon may be like. The climb to the Red Crater was so windy I was afraid if I fell I would not stay on the trail. At one point you have to use a chain attached to the side of the hill to climb up and keep you footing. The shuttle driver said that less than an hour after I crossed a gust of almost 100km was recorded on top.     Soda Springs       The views were much better as I descended to the Emerald Lakes. This area is an active volcano and volcanic area so there was only volcanic matter and the climb was very loose so at times everyone was sliding. Once I got to the Emerald Lakes in a few minutes the clouds lifted a bit and a short while later the sun came out. The Emerald Lakes are blue/green and have the rotten egg smell from sulphur. Their color is from minerals being leached out from the mountain side.    Emerald Lake       The final part is a walk through the Volcanic active zone. So there are many warning lights to let you know if it is safe. The volcano has not been very active but erupted in only 2012. So precaution has to be taken. That eruption even sent rocks and boulders over 2km away and actually crushed rooms in a hut for sleeping. No one was in it that time and not the hut is closed for camping.            The Volcano is still active   Damage from the 2012 eruption   Glad no one was in there   This was an incredible walk that could have been better if the clouds were not there in the morning. Still to be walking on a volcanic site is pretty incredible. New Zealand is amazing, in three days I have seen a glacier, rain forests, and a volcano.    A short drive from the National Park Village to Rotorua that took only 218.8km (135.9 miles) so now I have 2708.3km (1682.8 miles) on my journey. Due to my procrastination and not sure of where the trip would take me each night as well as this being Easter weekend I am staying in a holiday park where I get to sleep in the car. Oh well the facilities are really nice and it is cheap. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Cook Straight Ferry

Lots of driving, a ferry ride and a walk around. I did not have anything planned today, but to take the Cook Straight Ferry from Picton to Wellington. After walking around the beautiful harbor town of Picton I got on the ferry for my 1:15 ride. The ferry ride was just over 3 hours and the ferry was very cool. From wireless internet for purchase, to food courts, and even a movie theater the ferry ride has everything for anyone. In some areas there were tv's setup that could be watched. The ride was smooth and the views amazing. I have left the South Island and am on the North Island. The hardest part today was knowing that after my ferry landed in Wellington, the capitol of NZ, I would have to drive almost 4 hours north to the National Park Village for my lodging tonight. As I was coming in the road was very windy meaning that a 100km road was now about 75/80 max and around some turns 30km. That took a little longer than planned. For the day I drove 469km (291.4miles) bring the total to 2489.5km (1546.9miles).       A similar ferry I took.           Loading the ferry   Goodbye South Island!             Oh hello North Island. Good to see ya!

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Pancake Rocks, National Kiwi Centre, Seal Colony

Today I headed to the National Kiwi Centre, the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, and a Seal colony. Not a bad day for it and an easy drive up the coast. Tonight I have stopped in Nelson and am spending the night at a backpackers.      The National Kiwi Centre is more than just Kiwi's. There are fish, frogs, a lake for catching crayfish, and the second most popular attraction, eels. The eels are in a large tank where they can swim around, eat, and relax. All of the 40 eels are females. I got to see the feeding of them. These eels are quite receptive to it, but I would not trust myself with them in the wild. Since eels are blind any loud movement in the water is though to be prey and they will attack. The most popular attraction is the kiwi house. In there the kiwi's are in the dark because they are nocturnal creatures. Hard to see in there, but I managed to see one of the Kiwi's active. A little bigger than a chicken the kiwi does not fly, but runs around on the ground looking for food. Very cool indeed. No photography is allowed inside.             The grandma. Notice the curve in her back. That is from old age and not being in the wild to breed.         After I drove up the coast to the Pancake Rocks. Carved out over time by wind and water the rocks resemble stacks of pancakes. Under these are caves and openings that allow water to be blown up and out when the tide is right. The blows can be small or very large. I was lucky to see them at the tide and some of the blows were magnificent. There is even a hole where just air comes out very loud. Another attraction here is a cave just down the road. Not very big, but still cool. I only had my phone's light so I could not see the further back I went. I'm not sure if the cave kept going once it got quite low to the ground.                                  A Weka   After the Pancake Rocks I decided to find a Seal Colony I had seen posted. When I found it the walk to the seals was short and easy, but the weather had changed and rain was starting. Still the seals were awesome and enjoying the weather. They were lying on the rocks and in the water playing around.          Seals surround the water in the middle of the picture. Hard to see them as they blend in very well.      A few more pictures from Hokitika and the drive.          For the day I drove 394.3km (245miles) bringing my four day total to 2020.5km (1255.5miles). I head to the North Island tomorrow so come back to see more on the travel up New Zealand. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Heading up the West Coast

Heading out of Arrowtown I took the Crown Range to Wanaka and the West Coast. Before the crack of dawn I left the place I had called home for the past 6 months. I enjoyed my time and will have memories for a lifetime. Today I had planned to go to the Franz Joseph Glacier where you can see the terminal face and the the West Coast Treetop Walk.        At Franz Joseph Glacier, after a long four hour drive up the West Coast through Mount Aspiring National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park, I finally got a chance to stretch my legs. I took two hikes with views of the glacial riverbed and the glacier. Sentinel Rock Walk was very short and steep, but had great views of the glacial riverbed and a glimpse of Franz Joseph. The longer walk, Franz Joseph Glacier Walk, took me through the riverbed to the terminal face. Today the only was to safely access the glacier is by Helicopter. The end of the walk is some distance from the glacier but I could see how impressive it is.      Sentinel Rock Walk         Franz Joseph Glacier Walk             After the glacier I traveled up to the West Coast Treetop Walk. A 1.2km walk on an elevated platform 20m (65ft) in the air gives an up close view of the tops of the trees and vegetation. Many plant interactions take place higher up than we can see normally, but with this we can see what is going on. The highlight is the tower which stands 40m (131ft) up with views of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.                        This evening I am staying in the beach town of Hokitika. A little town with lots to do. I plan on going to the National Kiwi Centre tomorrow for viewings of the Kiwi's, Tuatara, and Eel's. I got to go to the beach tonight and as I got there I remembered the stick art spelling out Hokitika. A cool beach with lots of other stick art made from the washed up branches.          For the day I put in 503.1km (312.6miles) bringing my three day total to 1626.2km (1010.5miles). Come back tomorrow for another fun filled day.

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Mount Cook

Standing at 3,754m (12,316ft) Mt. Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain. At that height the mountain is in snow all year round making for great views and pictures any time of the year. That is if the weather holds up. I have been told that Mt. Cook can be hard to see at times. One guy told me, "you could come up here 6 times and never see her." Well I guess I was lucky because I could see Mt. Cook all day and around 1:30pm the clouds behind left giving an even more spectacular view of the peak.              After stopping into the visitors center, which is amazing, I took two trails: Hooker Valley and Kea Point.                 Hooker Valley is an easy hike winding over the Hooker River taking about 3 hours round trip. The end of the trail is the glacier lake. Here actual small glacier pieces can be see in the water all around. Mount Cook stands proud behind the lake with the Mueller Glacier on the left. Kea Point was a short hour hike to the Mueller Glacier moraine wall. The wall is debris left from the retreating glacier. Great views wherever you are on either trail.      Hooker Valley   The first woman to ever climb Aoraki/Mt. Cook was Freda du Faur. Her well know picture after the climb shows her standing in front of this rock.    A memorial to those who died in the park.     One of the suspension bridges that is crossed over the river.    Mt. Cook at last!     Glacier Lake         Mt. Cook in her glory!   Kea Point         A few pictures from Cromwell and the drive to Mt. Cook       For the day I traveled a total of 530km (329miles) bringing my two day total to 1123.1km (697.8miles). Tomorrow I leave Arrowtown for good. Check back each day for the next adventure. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Next Stop Antarctica

New Zealand is one of the furthest countries south. So at the bottom edge there is nothing but water till you reach Antarctica. Stewart Island is part of New Zealand and further, but for main land New Zealand this is the furthest you can go before crossing water. So there have been a few sign posts made that show how far to the South Pole, the Equator, and a few cities.   Slope Point is the actual furthest point south for New Zealand, even though Stirling Point gets more attention. Both were fantastic. Stirling Point was easier to get to with easier roads to travel on. Slope Point is accessed by dirt roads and a farmers field. I grew up on a dirt road and I know after the amount of rain we have been having the roads would be in rough shape and they were. Pot holes all over, a logging company made lots of mud, and the road reminded me of narrow Irish roads. Really cool to look out and know that there is nothing till the snow and cold of Antarctica.      New York only 15,008km (9325.5 miles) away   Well Antarctica is closer. Bye!   Love to see the word of the Lord being preached because "...with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26         Links guys: this should look familiar     Weird to think that out there is the bottom of Earth.   Having decided to travel to the signs I looked into more things to do in Southland. Not much, but I remembered that the movie The World's Fastest Indian was based upon New Zealander Burt Munro. I looked up where he was from and low and behold Invercargill. A little more searching and I found that Southland Museum and Art Gallery had an exhibit on his accomplishments. I was impressed at what they had there. The motorcycle was on site as well as the shell. You are even allowed to get into the shell. Too bad I did not have anyone to take a picture.           After seeing the exhibit I was surprised at what else was in the museum and the area. There is a Tuatara habitat (tuatara are lizards with ancient beginnings). Lots of old Maori artifacts, ships and crews, a Victoriana exhibit, and a large park called Queens Park. I was really shocked at the sight of Queens Park. This park spans almost 80 hectares (197 acres) loaded with Subantarctic and rose gardens, animals, sculptures, and even a golf course. I could have spent more time here and would have if I had know about the park. Overall a really great place to go to. The road may be boring at times since Southland is flat with lots of farming, little people, and run down buildings, but the 591km (367mile) trip was worth it.    Tuatara     Maori tools   Whale Bone   Boat with real rocking and swaying     Queens Park entrance                   Stop back each day for a new adventure as I drive up the West Coast to Auckland. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Ben Lomond

Queenstown is home to many great hiking trails. I have done most of the trails around Arrowtown and one that went to Queenstown, but had yet to do the Ben Lomond hike. After looking at the weather for the weekend today seemed to be the best day for it. At first I was not sure if I picked right as clouds and mist came crawling into the canyon, but once I got high enough and some wind picked up most of the rainy stuff left.      Ben Lomond can be accessed two ways: through the One Mile Powerhouse or from the Skyline Gondola. The later saves about an hour off the 6-8 hour round trip hike. I chose the One Mile route since that seemed to be more interesting. One Mile Powerhouse was the first hydro power station for Queenstown. Before that it was just gas electricity. Needless to say this was an improvement to the area. This is just a restored model of the actual powerhouse, but you can see how electricity was made from water.          Getting to the Ben Lomond starts on the One Mile trail running along the old water stream complete with numerous waterfalls and a dam. One Mile takes about a half hour for a fit person to walk and reaches the start of Ben Lomond at a bike intersection.         The Skyline Gondola is one of the most visited parts of Queenstown. After taking the gondola to the top one can ride a bike down the trails of various skill levels, do some luge, or just eat and hang out. The views are incredible of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.     The rain apparently was not enough to stop the fire danger. I've seen signs like this around and all or on high or extreme even if it has been raining. Makes me believe these are not updated very often.     From the bike intersection at the end of One Mile the trail for Ben Lomond is picked up. From here the trail take 3 hours to the summit. I did it in 2.5 hours with the 1 hour ascent to the summit. For the most part the trail is a steady climb to the saddle and turns to steep as you climb to the summit. As I was walking to the saddle the weather was changing fast. In no time the clouds from above sank down to the valley and brought about a cold mist. My camera lens was starting to get wet and would not dry even in my bag. Luckily once I got higher I left that behind and had warm weather. The clouds were still around and would make some views hard to see, but now they were white and "fluffy" instead of dreary and heavy.         With no sign in book or object people have taken to the signs. Cool to see the places people visited from, but sad to see the sign vandalized.    This fog or cloud came down in about 5 minutes. One minute I could see around the next nothing. I did not see Ben Lomond until I was basically at the saddle.      The Remarkables looking stunning even though they are covered by clouds.      Ben Lomond Summit. Still a bit to get to the bottom of it, but absolutely stunning.   Later on the walk down the Remarkables decided to show themselves.    The climb to the summit was not the easiest and would be hard for lots of people, but if you take your time it should be fine. In some areas the trail was almost a climb as I had to get over rocks and was on very narrow paths with a less than desirable drop on the side. But wow once I reached the top I was amazed. The 360° view showed the Queenstown area and the lake could be seen for miles. Behind that was just mountain peak after mountain peak as far as I could see. Below me was Moke Lake the site of the Shotover Moonlight Marathon. To say I was impressed is an understatement. When I was up there clouds came in and covered up most of the Queenstown area. I got there at the best time and as I left the trail Ben Lomond was still covered up. This hike is very rewarding to do and should be done by all who visit Queenstown.                    

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

A Day in Arrowtown

Living in the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown was great. The hiking was incredible and just outside my backdoor. Getting off the trails and into the heart of little Arrowtown there are a few things I had not done, but needed to do.     The Arrowtown Chinese Settlement is an interactive depiction of life during the gold rush for Chinese settlers. Most immigrants who came to the Otago region in the 1800s were looking for gold. Arrowtown was very popular due to the Arrow River flowing through. Settlers who came were looking for a means to make some money and get out of poor living conditions. Most of the Chinese who came over were farmers looking to purchase some land with the $200NZ or so they hoped to find. This could take over four years to become reality. While they were here a settlement was created. Up to 20 people at a time were living in the settlement right here in Arrowtown; most were related. These early settlements lead rise to the town of Arrowtown and what it is today.            Another gem of Arrowtown is the Lakes District Museum. The museum shows the way life was in the early years of the region and how people traveled around. I really enjoyed how put together the museum was and how much artifacts there were from the early times. In the museum there is a bulk head from a ship, a blacksmith shop, a one room schoolhouse, and bedrooms. There was so much information it was hard to take it all in. Something worth seeing when you visit Arrowtown.             

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

My Final Day at The Hills

My final day of work at The Hills for Brendan Allen is finished. I cleaned out my locker, said good bye to the guys, and am ready for my trip to Auckland through the west coast. Working at The Hills was a pleasure. There is a great bunch of guys on the crew and that only improved the experience for me. The closeness of everyone is really unique to find in such a large crew. That only makes work easier. I wish everyone the best to their future endeavors.    I cannot thank Brendan enough for taking me on for the season. I got to see a different operation and work with Browntop Bentgrass (Colonial Bentgrass) that I had not previously. One of the main reasons I chose to come to The Hills was the tournament that was being held here. To see course preparation for a tournament was something I had wanted to see for a long time.   I was impressed at how well the course was prepared prior to the tournament. Maybe there are just more guys who have been through multiple tournaments or Brendan was really on top of jobs that needed to be done, but there never felt like a change from summer work to tournament prep. Expectations are kept high during the season so when the NZ Open came around we knew what was expected and just did it.    Working at The Hills was a great experience. This is a world class operation. If anyone gets the opportunity to come here or wishes to get away from the cold winters on the Northern Hemisphere I highly suggest coming over. To work at such a beautiful course with highly knowledgable personal and get to experience a unique golfing setting is a humbling experience.    When I set down with Mike O'Keeffe in December 2013 I could not have expected to have such a fantastic time working and traveling in Ireland and New Zealand. A fun filled year could not have been possible without the help of many people.   A huge thanks to Mike O'Keeffe for setting up me up to interview with TurfNet and placing me at The Hills. Thanks to Jon Kiger and the staff at TurfNet for answering any questions I had about the blog and helping me get me set up for Ireland. To Brendan Allen and Aidan O'Hara, thank you for taking me on and teaching me more about managing a golf course to the highest standard than I knew possible. You are two of the best in the business. A shoutout to all of the Superintendents that took the time to show around their courses in Ireland and NZ. Without the support of all of you this year would not have been possible. Thank you.    My journey has not ended yet though. As I said above I still have some time here till I fly out so I have a trip planned out to see the rest of New Zealand. Starting Monday I will be going around the country as I make my way up to Auckland. When I get back to the USA I will be volunteering at TPC Sawgrass for The Players, maybe I will see some of you there. I have accepted the position of Turf Grad at Hazeltine National Golf Club for hopefully through the Ryder Cup in 2016. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Millbrook Resort and Jack's Point

Millbrook Resort is laid out just down the road from The Hills and co-hosted the BMW NZ Open. Today I got a tour of the course from Superintendent James O'Malley. After working in the pro shop he eventually moved to the golf maintenance where he did his apprenticeship. Now he is the Superintendent of 27 holes and 500 acres of property. Millbrook is a large resort club catering to all types of people. To keep the properties and buildings in good condition there are hundreds of employees. Lunches, catered by the club, can be interesting as people of different jobs sit together. Not like some places where you sit with your immediate co-workers.      Taking care of 27 holes is a lot of work so there are 18 employees in summer and 11 in winter. This is less than the Hills, but less personal are needed since greens and tees are triplexed. The grass is Browntop Bentgrass (Colonial Bent) and cut about the same as the Hills; greens in the 3mm, tees/collars 8mm, and fairways around 10.5mm.     Housing Construction Next to Fairway    The course started 25 years ago as an 18 hole course on the site of an old wheat farm. About 7 years ago a new 9 holes were created making the course into three 9 hole courses. Play can route any of the 9 holes. In the winter 9 holes are shut down, usually the ones that receive very little light or no light. A new 9 is in being talked about to make 36 holes. For the NZ Open the last 2 years with Millbrook being a co-host two of the 9 hole courses have been used, but changed which ones each year.     Old Shed   New Shed   Grass Tennis Courts   O'Malley said he has seen differences in the old 18 holes and newer 9. The newer 9 needs more fertilizer than the old 18. The old 18 has more thatch and greens were redone a few years ago to remove thatch very quickly. He has been putting lots of work into the greens using Maredo triplex aeration heads. By using this system 18 holes can be aerated with pencil tines in under a day and a half.    Irrigation Pond and Aeration of NZ Open Traffic Spots     Old Woolshed Now Driving Range   Then I went to Jack's Point meeting with Assistant Ben Taylor. Briefly I was introduced to Superintendent Simon Forshaw, who has been at the course since the start 10 years ago. Ben interned at Augusta through The Ohio Program 10 years ago. TOP is truly a global program. Ben had nothing but positive thoughts on the program.      Natural Looking Bunkers     Jack's Point is a spectacular course. Surrounded by The Remarkables Mountains to the east and Lake Wakatipu on the west the views are one of a kind. Being so close to these features means lots of wind so the course can play like a links course. Fescue fairways, browntop greens and tees, natural looking bunkers and little rough gives off minimalistic vibe. Even signs are made out of old wood. I loved the look of Jack's Point. This is a gem of the South Island. To maintain the course 19 staff are used in the winter, with most internationals, and 9 in winter. Last year a new hole was constructed as the 19th to be used if any work needed to be done to a hole. Jack's Point is a spectacular course to visit or play.          The 19th Hole

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: The Aftermath

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p99td6O36_s   Well the pressure of the NZ Open is off, but now not for the course. The beating the course takes for a tournament is tremendous. On a course like the Hills there are areas where crowds have very little places to go so wear patterns appear. This will recover, but will take some time. The golfers as well are funneled into some areas, but for the most part those areas look fine. Even the greens do not look too bad a week after; by only mowing twice since with raised heights stress is greatly reduced. Collars are weakening on the turf areas, but for the most part that was caused by the straight week of mowing. The areas will recover in time.   Yup thats a drop zone painted right on top of the ladies tee on the 4th.   Tee signs do significant damage, but will heal quickly.    Frost damage from Sunday morning when the officials had to drive around.   The worst area on the course is the driving range from the 19th hole. When tents are put up flooring goes down under them. A hot week does not help the grass under the flooring survive. Hot temperatures with wet mornings makes the grass very susceptible to fungal growth and death from no light. Prior to the tents going up the grass was mowed and sprayed with fungicide and growth regulator. This was a precautionary step taken to help protect the grass in its week long stress ride. Now after the tents have been removed we can see the damage done to the grass. It is not pretty, but I have been told this happens every years and after aeration, seed, sand and lots of water the areas usually grow back. Very few areas are actually needed to be renovated. The course cold have looked a lot worse, but I think it held up very well.               I do not know how a course can hold more than one event like this. The NZ Open is not even that big when compared to events in the States and Europe. The damage to those course has to be even greater. After this event I am even more impressed at courses like Pinehurst Resort, host of back to back 2014 Men and Women US Opens, and Muirfield Village, The Memorial and President's Cup in 2013. One positive of hosting a tournament is that the damage work breaks up the monotony of everyday work.  

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 7

The final day has ended. The last putt holed and everyone gone home. I know I keep saying it, but players and officials just loved The Hills all week. I really enjoyed working the tournament and getting to see the course change from brown/yellow and dreary to green and sharp. This was the first time I got to experience working at a course hosting a tournament that year and I was impressed. The hard work that went into making the course look great was justified seeing the television coverage. Hats off to all of the staff that put in the time and energy to make The Hills a golfing destination.    After a below par championship reception last year, the tournament officials really did it up this time around. After the last putt dropped and the winner, Jordan Zunic at 21-under par, had done his interview for tv the greenkeepers, volunteers, Michael Hill, and a band of bagpipes all lined up at the start of 18 fairway and walked to the green. The crowd got to see the people who worked to make the tournament a success. Then after Michael Hill drove his BMW i8 down the fairway to the green the ceremony started. This time around it was well organized and everyone was recognized for awards and hard work. Thanks guys! I can't wait to do another one.                

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 6

Today did not feel like a Saturday. I guess that is what happens when you work long hours and are on a different schedule anyways. What a day for golf though! The course really pops when the sun shines. Greens got firmer so speeds did not fall too much. We only cut greens tonight, no rolling, to keep speeds constant. I had a nice wander around the course watching some golf and taking a few pictures.    The 19th Hole     Sir Michael Hill Received the Keys to Arrowtown   Massive Portable Video Screen     Brendan doing his only job, "trying to look important."   Find the Diamond in the Rough         Such a surreal feeling being on a mountain course       Greens dried out today and got that shiny look to them.       VIP tent (not allowed in there)       Round bales protecting some equipment.      Not a par-3 here, the par-4 15th              

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 5

The day before the cut day went very smoothly. Morning jobs are finishing quicker and quicker and in the evening nothing broke down. To speed up greens some were double cut in the morning, others just cut and all rolled. Since tomorrow is after the cut over all players are better so greens were cut in the night to get greens a little faster for tomorrow.    For the tournament 4:30 mornings are very dark till about 7 so cutting cups would be very hard. To combat this they are cut the night before and left just a touch below the surface to keep the shape of the hole. Then in the morning all that is left is setting and painting the hole. Saves a bit of time for the tournament.    The crew has grown to 28 people for the tournament. With many more people jobs get done very quickly. In the morning we have 1 doing cups, 4 greens mowers, 2 rolling greens, 2 collars/approaches mowers, 3 on fairways, 2 taking dew off fairways, 2 taking dew off tees, 2 general blowing, 10 guys doing bunkers (some may do other jobs though). The course looks great after the morning run and needs to be for the SKY Sports television coverage. In the evening there are 2 on watering, 2 cutting tees, 3 on primary, 1 cutting holes, 3 on bunkers, 3 divoting tees, a few guys doing other jobs as needed like cutting greens, the rest divoting fairways. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 4

Sorry for the delay. After a long day at the course I went to bed once I got home. I write this just after morning jobs have been completed and breakfast served. Yesterday was a great opening round. The course is looking great and everyone has raved about it. Following morning session I went out to see some golf. The format of two professionals and two amateurs makes for some interesting golf. At times the amateurs have better shot than the professionals, but usually not. There was even a hole-in-one on hole seven. Too bad there is no prize given out there.      One really nice part of the tournament being quite small is that people are allowed cameras on the course. Not like the States where they are prohibited. Later today and through out the weekend I will try to take some photos of the tournament.      During down time while golf is playing the guys can stay at the course or leave. Most stay to watch some golf or just hang out in the shed. One guy brought in his tv and playstation so video games are being played all day. We also have our green at the shed and play some cricket just outside.   

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 3

Just a quick blog with some photos tonight. The last day before the opening round of the BMW NZ Open was a long one. Work went from 5:30am to 7:45pm. A long day for all, but the last bits of the course were cleaned up. After mowing collars in the morning I helped finish filling divots on fairways, then worked on the range water race cleaning that up and finally cut down some willows growing on number five pond. One of the reasons for the practice day is to have any problems or issues fixed. For example I am on tees in the afternoon with Craig and Shutters. Craig and I are paired up using the Jacobsen Eclipse mowers. On the second hoe mowing Craig's mower broke down. Lucky it happened today and not tomorrow or another night to lengthen out the evening session. Morning are provided by PGG Wrightson.              

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 2

Another day finished and the course keeps looking better and better. Everything was mowed again today. Some collar areas that were sodded earlier in the year are not looking that great so we kept off them. As Brendan said probably some of the areas are not that bad, but we are trained to see it. In the afternoon greens received another cut with six mowers instead of the normal four. This helped speed up the mowers time. Fairways divots were filled and greens sprinkler heads cleaned up. A few more guys have started work for the tournament.     We are in for a fun filled week. The days will be long, but fulfilling. So far I have enjoyed seeing the course transform from the beating it took as we renovated the greens, tees, and fairways to tournament shape, the pinnacle of greenkeeping. An early start tomorrow and more practice rounds ushering in the start of the 2015 BMW NZ Open. In cooperation with Millbrook Resort the players are composed of pros and amateurs both challenging for the championship. The winner will have to play three rounds at The Hills and one at Millbrook. Saturday and Sunday are only at The Hills for those who make the cut. Finally the Michael Hill diamond bridal ring prize on the par-3 10th is available to all players alike, so an amateur can win the ring with a hole-in-one.  

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

BMW NZ Open: Day 1

Tournament week is here. Players are arriving and playing The Hills, workers are getting the course finished set-up and we are putting the final touches to the course. Everything was mowed today, as will be till the end of the tournament, and bunkers/water races were fly mowed. In the morning I mowed collars and then helped Scott finish mowing tees. In the afternoon we made a large batch of divot sand. This is for the guys to fill divots on fairways and tees at night after play is finished.         

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

NZ Open Approaching + A Hike

With the NZ Open this week and having the day off I decided to walk up Tobin's Track to get some pictures of the course from above. This track takes about 30 mins, but little did I know this short hike would lead to a 4 hour trip. Yesterday the Motatapu was held. This is another off road Marathon, bike race, 51km and 15 km races. The 15 km race is the Miners 15k. This travels the Miners Trail a few hills behind Tobin's Track. I had not explored much behind Tobin's so I decided to check it out. I took Brackens Saddle at first leading to Miners Trail. From there I accidentally diverted off the Miners Trail going to New Chum Gully and back down Tobin's.    At the 18th hole there is the classic scoreboard being updated as play goes on. There is also the VIP "tent" overlooking the approach and green, just behind the clubhouse. If you look closely to the right side about middle of the picture the flag seen surround the putting green. While looking great the downside is that they are right on the collar meaning that every time collars are mown the flags have to come down.    The 19th hole has come together great. This is the members range. Pros would hit out the back of the range and space is limited here so the players hit down at the bottom range.    Pros range tee and green. The range goes to the left over 300 yards out.    The next few pictures show the course getting into tournament shape. Most noticeably is the fairway mowing. Some have been contoured cut, others straight lines from the tees.               I caught one making a break. She looked back at me as if to say, "try and stop me."   Where the fun began.   When I go on these hikes I try not to live behind the camera, but I just want to capture the beauty of NZ for everyone to see.    An abandoned structure on the trail.   The remaining piece to an old house. Fireplaces are very well built.      This is Brackens Saddle.                After I uploaded the pictures to my computer I was looking through them and this one caught my eye. My favorite from the day. I like how the picture shows what this area has to offer: Mountains, Lakes, Farm Land, Tussocks, Hiking, and Small Towns. 

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

The Hills Better in Pictures

Two weeks from today the first round of the New Zealand Open will tee off. Here are some pictures of the course prior to the tournament. We have just started cutting fairways to be burnt in over the next two weeks. I will try to take as many pictures of the course just before the start of the tournament with it in the best condition. Enjoy!   Hole #1     Don't or face Sir Michael Hill     Hole #2   Hole #3   Holes 1, 2, 3 Hole #4   Hole #5     Hole #6   Dragonfly Pond   Hole #7   Hole #8     Hole #9     Hole #10     Hole #11   I love the look of tussocks, not so much for the maintenance.    Hole #12   Hole #13       Hole #14   Hole #15   Hole #16   A unique Incorporation of the landscape, golf course, and culture. There are still aspects of the farm on the course like this windmill.    Hole #17 (Signature Hole)     Hoe #18     Green roof of the clubhouse
Driving  Range   Sir Michael Hill's Private Hole    Maintenance Shed

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

 

Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon 10KM

New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery hence why Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings, chose to film the movies here. I have done many of the hikes in Arrowtown and plan on hiking to the top of Ben Lomond. The views are incredible from the top. So when I heard about a race in the mountains I had to look into it.     Rob and I had planned on running the race together, but he went back home for a new job so I ran solo. The Queenstown Rafting 10KM took place Saturday February 21st at Moke Lake near the Ben Lomond scenic reserve. The race was the toughest I have ever done and the furthest I have ever run. The 1st half was up hill with a moderate grade. I did not expect the race to start like that or be for that long so my training should have been better, but I got through the 1st half. I was rewarded with a nice downhill portion before crossing the river. The race took us back and forth over the river so I had to run through water a couple feet deep. By the end I was exhausted, but satisfied. Today I found out I ran it in 50:27, good enough for 6th in my group and 19th out of 95. If I am ever back I will do this again or maybe the half marathon.      For any viewers that are runners and willing to travel for a challenging race I would suggest the marathon. Running through Ben Lomond reserve to Moke Lake up and over ridge lines, valleys, through untouched land makes for one of the most scenic races to be found anywhere. By challenging I mean that the race will have a winner in the high 4 hrs or 5hrs. Check out this video to get you pumped! One day I would love to take part in this race.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI-MJa8i9ns

Peter Braun

Peter Braun

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